Youku launches its online video search engine

18 May 2011 16 h 23 min 21 comments

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Youku.com Inc, China’s largest online video company by market share, launched a video-searching service on Monday 17 May, a move that puts it in competition with search engines, such as Baidu Inc and Google Inc. The service, Soku.com, focuses only on online video content and will cover major online video sites in China, according to the company news release.

After almost a year of development and beta testing, Youku.com, Inc. recently officially unveiled Soku (http://soku.youku.com), a search tool designed to take into account Chinese online video viewers’ real needs. “The new Soku will allow viewers to more quickly and easily find engaging video content as part of Youku’s “everything about video” strategy”.

Under this strategy, Youku focuses on all aspects of viewers’ video viewing experience, from producing and aggregating quality content to helping users find and watch the content that they find interesting. Youku describes the cornerstones of its service as “Watch, Search, Play, Share and Create.” By bringing search as a full-featured product with the official launching of Soku, Youku hopes to bring these five categories of user behavior closer together.

The Soku homepage sports a clean redesign, featuring a search box and links to regularly updated rankings of top films, television series, and searches organized by category. New features like the Ku Box — a smart search field that presents results and related suggestions in real time — cut down the time users spend searching for content, and a new recommendation engine will suggest related content that users might not otherwise have discovered. A search for the name of a director, for instance, will return a list of his or her films in the Ku Box. Soku’s redesign also extended behind the user interface, with many of the changes to the search engine not immediately apparent to users.

Soku now indexes content from top Chinese video sites, making it one of the first video search engines in China to do so. Rather than simply generating recommendations based on keywords or tags, Soku uses a number of factors, including past user behavior and users’ network speed. Leveraging on Youku’s wealth of content, it presents viewers with videos that they will want to see. By monitoring network speeds in different regions and at different times of the day, Soku can recommend fast-loading, smooth-playing videos to users in different network environments.

“With Soku, we’re capitalizing our knowledge about user behavior and applying them to the question of how we can shorten the distance between people and the content they want to watch,” said Youku’s Chief Technology Officer Jian Yao. “We want our users to be engaged — whether they’re content creators or content consumers — and the personalization that Soku now allows showcases our ability to help further improve users’ sense of engagement and participation on Youku. We believe Soku is faster and more comprehensive than any other Chinese video search engine.”

73,6% of Chinese online video viewers search for video content

“Youku received a license for Internet video search from the State Administration of Radio, Film and Television this spring. Over the past several years, Chinese internet users’ video viewing habits have become increasingly search-centric. According to figures from Chinese Internet Network Information Center, 43.8% of online video viewers searched for video content online in 2009; in 2010, the same figure grew to 73.6%.

According to iResearch, Youku had approximately 231 million monthly unique visitors from homes and offices in March 2011 and approximately 52 million monthly unique visitors from Internet cafes in February 2011. Youku had a 37% market share in terms of total user time spent viewing online videos in China in 2010, according to iResearch.

SOURCES: Youku, China Daily (17/05/11)

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